Damaris Okumu: My baby’s well-being made me quit nursing to start flourishing daycare

Inventist School Director Damaris Okumu

 Inventist School Director Damaris Okumu at her office on January 12, 2024.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Leaving the workplace earlier to take care of the young boy was also close to impossible.
  • Ms Okumu employed a manager who also came in with her two children.

  • The facility has also mounted CCTV cameras in various rooms to monitor how the teachers and caregivers take care of the toddlers.

Long working hours often left Damaris Okumu, a nurse, worried about her newborn son’s welfare. Barely six months after resuming work from maternity leave, the now mother of three had been treated to lots of inconveniences by her housekeepers.

So bad was the situation for Ms Okumu, a first-time mother then, who had to abandon her profession in 2015 to be a stay-at-home mother.

“I had spoken to my husband about the challenges and after some time, I decided to sacrifice my job for the safety of my son,” she says.

Her decision, she says, had been inspired by the injuries her son was nursing almost every week. The months-old boy also had rushes around his genitals which kept increasing, the doctors had advised that they could have resulted from the toddler overstaying in diapers.

Leaving the workplace earlier to take care of the young boy was also close to impossible since sometimes the duties would stretch to late at night.


But this was not the first time she had witnessed similar challenges with a house help.

“I worked in the children’s section at a health facility before going into early retirement. During the few years I was employed, women would check into the facility with children who had sustained injuries or were unwell due to poor supervision by their caregivers,” says Ms Okumu.

Tharaka Nithi boasts of first daycare and nursery of its kind in Kenya

While at home, she enrolled for a master’s degree course in public health and graduated in the year 2020.

During her free time, she was always researching on how to establish a daycare. Upon graduation, together with her husband, they decided to start up a baby care unit. A place where career mothers would drop their children without fears of the babies being mistreated; a home away from home.

After renting a space at the Kisumu Milimani Estate, she settled on constructing and equipping the facility.

The daycare founder says she had used Sh6 million family savings, to cater for new constructions, play parks, security camera installation, stationeries, landscaping, school van, renovation and license.

 “The thought of having a daycare first crossed my mind before I left my job, I wanted to bring up my children the way I deemed right, check on them whenever I wanted to and without any fears,” says Ms Okumu.

Ms Okumu says she was also looking forward to fusing her nursing and public health skills to run the facility. The daycare's operations- Inventist School- kicked off in late 2021 with only six children; two were Ms Okumu’s sons.

She says she had employed a manager who also came in with her two children.

“The rest of the children belonged to two parents who had kept in touch after seeing us kick off the daycare construction and had promised to stay in touch,” says Ms Okumu.

When Powering SMEs visited Investist School, Ms Okumu was busy admitting new children.

Damaris Okumu

Inventist School Director Damaris Okumu shows the nursery section at the institution.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

She says that within the past two years, the school’s population has grown to 57. She has also expanded her services from the daycare to Grade Four.

“More children kept coming to our facility through referrals, by the end of the year, we had admitted quite a number,” she says, adding that the admission age is from one year.

She says they avoid admitting children below the age of one so as not to interfere with their breastfeeding programme.

Primary school

When the toddlers outgrew the daycare and were ready for primary school, their parents requested that the school could as well offer learning services.

Ms Okumu says she saw this as an opportunity and started with PP1 and PP2, years later, the parents had requested that she upgrade and before she knew it, they were in Grade Four.

“Hopefully, by next year, we will be at Grade Six. While I had only hoped to put up a daycare, look at how far we have moved,” says Ms Okumu.

The school founder says she charges Sh43,000 per term for the daycare services due to the range of services offered to the toddlers.

At the daycare, the one-year-olds are taught basic and academic skills to use washrooms while observing hygiene. The caregivers also have a role in helping the toddlers with their speech development.

Inventist School

Inventist School Director Damaris Okumu at the school on January 12, 2024.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega. | Nation Media Group

“We train them how to express themselves, the basic words like salutation and sorry to help with socialising,” Ms Okumu says.

They are also taught how to hold objects including pens. The daycare also ensures the learners are well-fed with a balanced diet to help their growth and development.

The institution has developed a routine of mentoring young individuals, bathing, feeding and allowing them to sleep daily before their pick-up time. The learners in pre-school pay a fee of Sh42,000 while Grades one to four pay Sh43,000 per term exclusive of a uniform fee.

Safety of learners

“The daycare services kick off as early as 6am and may close as late as 8 pm depending on requests from parents,” says Ms Okumu.

She further explains that for the safety of the learners, they have employed trained teachers to take the children through the sessions. The facility has also mounted CCTV cameras in various rooms to monitor how the teachers and caregivers take care of the toddlers.

Ms Okumu however says that she is considering running the daycare during school holidays this year due to requests she has been receiving from parents.

Currently, all her three children are at the institution with the last born who just moved to Grade One last year.

Back at home, Ms Okumu says she still has a house help, but her duties are now only restricted to housework.

She says one of the challenges is having a few toddlers at the daycare during school holidays.

“My motivation has however been staying on despite challenges and acknowledging that I was starting something that should outgrow our lifetime and aspiration,” she says

She concludes: “I believe I have helped to solve the problem faced by most career mothers including myself.”